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Olympics

[OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK] Naomi Osaka Seeded No. 2 for Women’s Singles Tournament

Plus, who’s going to light the Olympic cauldron to officially usher in the Tokyo Games? And, Brisbane is awarded the 2032 Summer Games.

Ed Odeven

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Naomi Osaka prepares for the Olympic women's singles tennis tournament, which begins on July 24.


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Tokyo 2020 organizers unveiled the Olympic tennis tournament draws on Thursday, July 22, and Naomi Osaka will make her much-anticipated return to competition in the Tokyo Games.

Tennis action gets underway on Saturday, July 24 at Ariake Tennis Park.

The world No. 2 Osaka is seeded second in the 64-player field. As of July 22, Osaka’s scheduled first-round opponent was China’s Zheng Saisai, who’s ranked No. 52. The match, listed for an 11 a.m. start on July 24, was taken off the day’s scheduled matches, it was announced on Friday, July 23.

Osaka’s opening match will be pushed back a day, according to Tokyo 2020 organizers. The four-time Grand Slam winner’s first-round match’s starting time and opponent for Sunday, July 25 will be announced on July 24.

The Associated Press reported that a tournament referee removed Osaka from the order of play on July 24.

Nao Hibino and Misaki Doi will also represent the host nation in women’s singles.

Osaka, has been sidelined since withdrawing from the French Open after her first-round victory over Patricia Maria Tig on May 30, citing a need for a mental break from the sport after acknowledging that she’s been dealing with depression over the past few years.

Australia’s top-ranked Ash Barty is the No. 1 seed in the women’s competition. Barty begins her title quest against world No. 48 Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain.

On the men’s side, Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic is the No. 1 seed. Daniil Medvedev, representing the Russian Olympic Committee, is seeded second.

Djokovic is having a sensational year, with singles titles in the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon before traveling to Japan. He faces 139th-ranked Hugo Dellien of Bolivia in the first round.

In the 64-man, six-round tournament, Japan’s Kei Nishikori, Yoshihito Nishioka, Taro Daniel and Yuichi Sugita are among the unseeded players.

World No. 69 Nishikori, who claimed the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, is paired with seventh-ranked Russian Andrey Rublev in the opening round.

Britain’s Andy Murray, the lone player in Olympic history to win back-to-back singles titles, is vying for his unprecedented third straight gold. Murray is set to meet Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The tennis singles events will conclude on August 1.

Predictions for the Opening Ceremony

Who’s going to light the Olympic cauldron on Friday night, July 23 to officially usher in the Tokyo Games?

Among the names being bandied about by a few longtime sports pundits less than 24 hours before the momentous occasion are Olympic greats Naoko Takahashi (women’s marathon champ at the 2000 Sydney Games), Kaori Icho (a four-time wrestling gold medalist), Kosuke Kitajima (a four-time swimming breaststroke gold medalist), Homare Sawa (2011 Women’s World Cup champion), Tadahiro Nomura (a three-time judo gold medalist) and baseball legend Ichiro Suzuki.

Brisbane Awarded 2032 Games

The IOC formally approved Brisbane, Australia, as the host city for the 2032 Summer Games on Wednesday, July 21.

IOC President Thomas Bach and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made it official by signing the host city contract at the IOC Session in Tokyo.

Brisbane will become the third Australian city to host the Summer Olympics, following Melbourne (1956) and Sydney (2000).

IOC members voted 72-5 to award the 2032 Games to Brisbane. To be more precise, Brisbane was the only city on the ballot. Of the 80 votes, five were “no” and three were “abstain.”

The Brisbane Olympics will cost $3.7 billion USD (about ¥408.1 billion JPY), according to The Australian. The total price tag for the  Tokyo Games: $14.6 billion USD.

“Brisbane 2032 is the first future host to have been elected under, and to have fully benefited from, the new flexible approach to electing Olympic hosts,” Bach said. “The reforms enable the IOC to work in partnership with cities, regions, and countries, to encourage Olympic projects which use a high percentage of existing and temporary venues, which align with long-term development plans, and which have a strong vision for sports and local communities.”

Three Players Headed to Japan After NBA Finals

The NBA Finals wrapped up on Tuesday, July 20, with the Milwaukee Bucks capturing their first title since 1971. Milwaukee defeated the Phoenix Suns 106-98 in the title-clinching Game 6.

Three players from the championship series ー the Bucks’ Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton and the Suns’ Devin Booker ー were scheduled to board a private plane on Friday, July 23 and fly to Tokyo to join Team USA for the upcoming Olympic basketball tournament.

Once they are back on the court and in their U.S. uniforms, Booker said Holiday and Middleton won’t be rivals.

“Representing your country is a whole different dynamic than competing against each other in the NBA Finals,” Booker told reporters after Game 6.

Bourne Replaces Crabb on U.S. Beach Volleyball Squad

Taylor Crabb tested positive for COVID-19 four times, which ended his hopes of competing with U.S. partner Jake Gibb in the men’s beach volleyball tournament at Shiokaze Park on Saturday, July 24.

In Crabb’s place, Tri Bourne will team up with Gibb, a four-time Olympian, according to published reports.

Crabb tested positive four times in Japan.

“I’m symptom-free, thankfully, but deeply disappointed to not be able to join Jake on the sand and compete as a member of Team USA,” Crabb was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. “I want Jake to play in his fourth Olympic Games and I want him to bring home a medal. Tri Bourne, an incredible athlete, person and close friend will be competing alongside Jake and filling my spot on Team USA.”

Quote of the Day

“It’s a privilege. You know there’s not many people that get to go to an Olympics. I’m the first one in my family to go to an Olympics, so it’s a big deal.”

Thomas Deng, Australia men’s soccer team captain, on competing at the Tokyo Games.




Author:  Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays,  in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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Ed Odeven is a longtime sports journalist who previously worked for The Japan Times as its chief basketball reporter for nearly 14 years. He also covered a wide range of other sports for the newspaper, including at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Games. A graduate of Arizona State University, Odeven worked for several newspapers in the Grand Canyon State before moving to Japan. He has freelanced for dozens of media outlets around the world.